Before I give you our final installment on Mexico City I thought I would update you on our present situation. We spent 10 days in San Miguel de Allende (SMA). Mexico still has very few reported cases of Covid-19 and the federal government is taking little action. SMA has a large expat community which appears to be pushing the health safety issue. We saw plenty of hand sanitizer and masks which were not present a week ago, restaurants are empty, the sidewalks and squares are sparsely populated.
Music venues are closed and all of the expat gatherings are cancelled. It is still much calmer and probably safer than what we were seeing back in Seattle. That being said, we decided to return to the states a few weeks early and are now under self quarantine in Spokane. We were probably less likely to encounter the Covid-19 virus in Mexico but it was probably only a matter of time before that changed.
We were also concerned that as things progress our ability to find flights would disappear.
Luckily, we were not halfway around the world, SMA is about 400 miles from the US border, and a short flight back to the states as long as the airlines continue to fly. It was rather odd to hear friends and family suggest we return to the safety of the US. From where we sat the US did not appear safe at all, just a matter of perspective, I guess.
We were rather busy in our last week in Mexico City, this was way back in time before Mexico had its first case of Covid-19 when all was normal in this part of the world. We took a private tour with Stepping Mexico, a rather expensive day tour costing $140 per person. The driver picked us up at our door and drove us to the Coyoacan neighborhood where his co-worker had been in line at the Frida Kahlo museum since 6 AM. She handed us our tickets and we had the museum to ourselves, maybe that $140 was worth it. The museum is set up in Frida’s home allowing you to see how and where the artist lived. She was famous during her lifetime so the house, furnishings, art supplies, even her clothes were well preserved. Whether you like or dislike her art it is a fascinating look into Frida’s life. Frida’s popularity has surged in recent years with movies and books about her life, her image is everywhere in Mexico which is a bit perplexing to Mexicans. Our driver noted that in high school Frida’s husband Diego Rivera was considered a national treasure with pages of his history text devoted to Rivera, Frida was a footnote. Now it is quite the opposite.
After a walking tour of the beautiful Coyoacan neighborhood we headed out to Xochimilco with its canals and colorful boats. The 170 KM of canals of Xochimilco are the remnants of the extensive lake and canal system that made up most of Mexico City when it was originally settled hundreds of years ago. The gondola like colorful Trajineras are a tourist attraction today but embraced by locals who fill the boats on weekends for family celebrations. Smaller boats ply the waters selling food, drinks and Mariachi bands for rent. We had an entire Trajinera to ourselves for a peaceful afternoon floating the canals. Afterwards our guide drove us back to downtown and dropped us at our front door.
On Sunday afternoon our plan was to head out to Garibaldi Square the home of Mariachi, where dozens of Mariachi bands gather to play for their fans. This happened to be on International Women’s Day when 80,000 were gathered to march through the city in protest to violence against women, aka femicide.
I think about 80,000 police in riot gear were also on hand to make sure the protest remained peaceful. For the most part it did, as one local suggested, there were 79,000 good women putting voice to a good cause and 1000 idiots trying to destroy property and give the cause a bad name. Witnessing the protest was both moving and a bit scary at times.
We succeeded in making it across the city on foot to Garibaldi which was rather quiet. We had a couple drinks and were entertained by a Mariachi singer.
Here in Mexico, Mariachi is a bit like Karaoke, everyone knows the words and energetically sings along, luckily, they don’t expect the gringo’s to know the words, we are just expected to smile and tip. A fun time nonetheless.
Our last big outing in CDMX was a visit to Chapultepec park. It is the central park of CDMX covering 1600 acres with walking paths, museums and Chapultepec castle. The park area has been significant for hundreds of years dating back to the Toltecs and Aztecs. The castle on top of Chapultepec hill has been an observatory, a military school and home to the Mexican head of state. It was the site of a famous battle in the Spanish American war and memorialized in the US Marine hymn as “the halls of Montezuma”. The castle is well preserved and absolutely beautiful. Its current look was created by Mexico’s short-lived emperor Maximillian who was actually Austrian and kind of given Mexico by Napoleon the III of France who decided to extend French influence while America was busy fighting its civil war.
Maximillian never completely defeated the Mexican republic headed by Benito Juarez and after the US was finished with its own war it then turned south and backed Juarez who defeated Maximillian and his French troops.
I know, a long winded quick history lesson but the end result is a very nice castle that you should definitely visit. As an added bonus we met new friends Howard and Katherine Gilberg from Dallas, they joined our tour and we joined them for lunch.
That’s it for Mexico City, I will try to give you a taste of San Miguel de Allende next week though it will be limited as we spend most of our time hiding from viral infection in our lovely apartment. Be safe and wash your hands.